My novel on parallel worlds, God and drugs

Here is the introduction to a novel I’ve been writing in English for eons…and perhaps even in some parallel world 🙂

Hier ist die EinfĂĽhrung in einen Roman, den ich auf Englisch seit Ă„onen geschrieben habe…und vielleicht sogar in irgendwelcher parallelen Welt 🙂

Ceci est l’introduction du roman que j’ai Ă©crit depuis de très nombreux mois…peut-ĂŞtre mĂŞme dans un monde parallèle 🙂

paralel

*************

Magonland…a world not entirely unlike ours but not completely similar either.

Magonland…eine Welt, die unserer nicht ganz unähnlich ist, obwohl sie auch nicht ganz dieselbe ist.

Magonland…un monde qui n’est pas vraiment diffĂ©rent du notre, bien qu’il ne soit pas tout Ă  fait identique.
For countless centuries, the whole planet has been ruled by the iron fist of the “Grand Consil”, whose manipulative skills have grown so strong that they managed eventually to convince the large majority of Magoners that they live in a democracy and are sovereign over their own existences.

Seit zahllosen Jahrhunderten wird der ganze Planet von der eisernen Faust des “GroĂźen Consils” regiert, dessen manipulativen Methoden so stark geworden sind, dass es ihnen schliesslich gelang, die grosse Mehrheit der Magoner davon zu ĂĽberzeugen, dass sie in einer Demokratie leben und ĂĽber ihre eigenen Existenzen entscheiden.

Depuis de nombreux siècles, l’entière planète a Ă©tĂ© gouvernĂ© par le poing d’acier du “Grand Consil”, dont les techniques de manipulation sont devenues tellement matures qu’ils ont finalement rĂ©ussi Ă  convaincre la grande majoritĂ© des Magoneurs qu’ils vivent dans une dĂ©mocratie et dirigent souverainement leurs propres existences.

manip

But political oppression is far from being the only problem plaguing humans.

Aber die politische UnterdrĂĽckung ist keineswegs das einzige Problem, das Menschen plagt.

Mais l’oppression politique est loin d’être le seul flĂ©au affligeant les humains.

Many eons ago, at a time when religions had not yet been eradicated, Ankou, a terrifying drug devouring the bodies and souls of its victims, had been introduced into the world by a powerful sect which disappeared shortly thereafter.

Viele Äonen zuvor, zu einer Zeit als die Religionen noch nicht vertilgt worden waren, wurde Ankou, eine furchterregende Droge, die die Körper und Seelen ihrer Opfer verzehrt, in die Welt hineingebracht von einer mächtigen Sekte, die kurz danach verschwand.

Dans un passĂ© très lointain, alors que les religions n’avaient pas encore Ă©té  Ă©radiquĂ©es, Ankou, une drogue terrifiante qui dĂ©vore les corps et les âmes de ses victimes, fut introduite dans le monde par une puissante secte qui disparut peu après.

junkies

And so did belief in Kralmur, the God of all gods whose glorious return so passionately preached by forgotten prophets never happened.

Und ebenso verschwand der Glaube an Kralmur, den Gott aller Götter, dessen glorreiche Rückkehr, über die vergessene Propheten so leidenschaftlich gepredigt haben, nie geschah.

Et il en fut de mĂŞme pour la foi en Kralmur, le Dieu de tous les dieux, dont le glorieux retour prĂŞchĂ© tellement passionnĂ©ment par des prophètes oubliĂ©s, ne s’est jamais produit.

Despite a wealthy existence, a fantastic girlfriend and a decent job he feels passionate about, Curt Sunbloom no longer wants to live on.

Trotz einer wohlhabenden Existenz, einer fantastischen Freundin und einer anständigen Arbeit, wovon er sich begeistert fühlt, will Curt Sunneblum nicht länger weiterleben.

Malgré une existence aisée, une fantastique petite amie et un travail décent qui le passione, Curt Sunbloom ne veut plus vivre.

gott

Apart from having the same name as his dead father who tyrannized the planet for decades, he constantly feels a deep emptiness in his innermost being that nothing had ever been able to drive away for long.

Ausser der Tatsache, dass er denselben Namen wie den seines toten Vaters hat, der den ganzen Planet während Jahrzehnten tyrannisiert hat, fühlt er ständig eine tiefe innere Leere, die kein Ding dieser Welt auf die Länge hatte vertreiben können.

En plus d’avoir le mĂŞme nom que son père dĂ©cĂ©dĂ©, qui a tyrannisĂ© toute la planète pendant des dĂ©cennies, il sent sans cesse un vide intĂ©rieur que rien au monde n’a jamais pu chasser pour longtemps.

As rumors of a gate toward another realm surface, he doesn’t hesitate and decides to search for it.

Als Gerüchte über ein Tor nach einer anderen Dimension auftauchen, zögert er nicht und entscheidet, danach zu suchen.

Lorsque des rumeurs concernant un portail vers une autre dimension surfacent, il n’hésite pas et décide de le chercher.

torandererdimension

But at the same time, mysterious lights are beginning to move around in the sky.

Aber zur gleichen Zeit beginnen gerade mysteriöse Lichter am Himmel, sich herum zu bewegen.

Mais en même temps, des mystérieuses lumières dans le ciel commencent a se déplacer erratiquement dans le ciel.

And Ankou seems to be evolving into something more sinister than it ever was.

Und Ankou scheint gerade, sich in etwas zu verwandeln, das noch dĂĽsterer ist als es je gewesen ist.

Et Ankou semble ĂŞtre entrain de se transformer en quelque chose encore plus sinistre qu’elle n’a jamais Ă©tĂ©.

anopu

Soon, Curt finds himself in the middle of a confusing war whose significance might transcend everything he believes in.

Bald befindet sich Curt mitten in einem verwirrenden Krieg, dessen Bedeutsamkeit alles übersteigen könnte, woran er glaubt.

BientĂ´t, Curt se retrouve au milieu d’une guerre dĂ©routante, dont la signifiance pourrait très bien transcender toutes ses croyances.

transenence

********************

So, aside from my work as an emerging scientist, this novel is the main reason why I’ve been blogging less frequently for the last months.

Also, neben meiner beruflichen Tätigkeit als Nachwuchswissenschaftler ist dieser Roman der Hauptgrund, warum ich im Laufe der letzten Monate viel seltener gebloggt habe.

En plus de ma profession en tant que jeune scientifique, ce roman est la raison principale pourquoi j’ai rarement bloguĂ© pendant les derniers mois.

At the moment,I am undecided as to how to publish it.

Momentan weiĂź ich noch nicht, wie ich ihn publizieren werde.

En ce moment, je ne sais pas encore comment je veux le publier.

I consider it much more important to be read by many people than to make money out of it.

Ich betrachte es als viel wichtiger, von zahlreichen Menschen gelesen zu werden, als dadurch viel Geld zu verdienen.

Je considère beaucoup plus important d’être lu par beaucoup de personnes plutĂ´t que de gagner de l’argent a travers cela.

In the parallel world I created, English is the common tongue but some people speak in French and other people speak in the Germanic dialect of my region.

In der parallelen Welt, die ich erschaffen habe, ist das Englische die gemeinsame Sprache aber einige Menschen sprechen Französisch während andere Personen den deutschen Dialekt meiner Region reden.

Dans le monde parallèle que j’ai crĂ©Ă©, l’anglais est la langue principale mais certaine personnes parlent en français tandis que d’autres s’expriment dans le dialecte germanique de ma rĂ©gion.

So people interested in linguistic might like it 🙂

Also Leute, die an der Linguistik interessiert sind, könnten es mögen 🙂

Ainsi, les gens intéressés par la linguistique pourrait l’apprécier 🙂

mainwilla

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On Dawkins, God, ET and the nature of reality

I just listened to a talk given by Richard Dawkins.

For those who do not know him, he is the most influential “new atheist” (anti-theist) whose deepest wish would be to rid the world of all religions. Besides that, he is a very gifted evolutionary biologist and writer.

Given his track record and his habit of constantly lumping together all Christians and Muslims and his failure to appreciate the historical and religious contexts in which the Bible and the Koran were written, I expected a highly biased presentation of the facts.
I was pleasantly surprised by his (relatively) moderate tone and even ended up enjoying his show.
The same cannot be said of his followers and the person who titled the video. As we shall see, Dawkins did not “debunk” deism and the “simulation hypothesis”.
At best, he only showed that some arguments for these views are flawed.
In what follows, I want to offer my thoughts about several things he said, albeit not necessarily in a chronological order.

The origin of life and intelligent design

origin-life
Dawkins recognises that at the moment, we don’t know how life originated. There are several theories out there but they all have their problems and no consensus has been reached.
Of course, our current ignorance cannot be used to argue that no natural phenomena could have been responsible for the appearance of the first self-replicating system.
Dawkins is ready to seriously consider the possibility that life has been seeded on earth by space aliens, which shows a certain mind-openness.
But he is adamant that such creatures could only have evolved through a slow process because the probability of their being formed spontaneously is extremely low.
This begs the question against people holding a religious world view who would say that the creator(s) of life are God(s) who always existed.
This also doesn’t fit in with his beliefs about the origin of the universe, as we will see later on.

Extraterrestrial intelligences and  Fermi’s paradox

Dawkins endorses the principle of mediocrity which stipulates that we shouldn’t suppose there is anything special about us.

Thus, since we know there is (advanced) life on earth, we should assume it is widespread across the whole universe.

While being still popular among mainstream scientists, the Principle Of Mediocrity (POM= has grown more controversial over the last years.
Philosopher of science John Norton wrote an article entitled “Cosmic Confusions: Not Supporting versus Supporting Not” where he shows the problems related to the POM.
Basically, the principle of mediocrity is justified through the principle of indifference (POI), according to which if we know nothing about a situation, we should attribute the same probability to each possibility.
I explained what I consider to be fatal objections to the POI here and here.
As Norton demonstrated, the principle of indifference conflates the difference between knowledge and ignorance and very often leads to arbitrary results (depending on the prior probability distribution one uses).
There is a fundamental distinction between
Situation A) We know that life on earth wasn’t the result of a fluke but that of non-random natural processes
and
Situation B) We know (almost) nothing about this.
Dawkins went into a paradox mentioned by nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi.
If advanced life is so common in the cosmos, why don’t we see any trace of it?
Several explanations (such as the near impossibility of interstellar travel, the short duration of technological civilisations or their reluctance to interact with such primitive beings as we) have been offered to solve the paradox.
To my mind, while these may be plausible reasons why ten or even hundred extraterrestrial races never approached the earth, they seem extremely far-fetched when applied to millions (let alone billions) of civilisations.
Therefore, I believe that Fermi’s paradox strongly calls in question the conviction that the universe is teeming with advanced life forms.

The fine-tuning argument and the multiverse

fine-tuning

Physicists have long since been puzzled by the fact that the constants of nature must lie in a very narrow domain in order to allow for advanced life to exist.

Many theistic philosophers reason like this

  1. All sets of parameter values must have the same probability of being true (applying the Principle Of Indifference mentioned above)
  2. Therefore, the probability of their belonging to a small region is extremely (if not infinitely) small.
  3. It is very unlikely that we are the products of purely natural processes not involving God.

While mainstream cosmologists agree with steps 1 and 2, they then go on to postulate the existence of a (nearly) infinite number of parallel universes covering all intervals of parameter values. A natural consequence of this is that the appearance of a universe such as ours is bound to happen even if no supernatural creator intervenes.

Dawkins considers this the most plausible explanation of the problem.

I have come to the realisation that the whole concept of a fine-tuning problem is misguided because of its reliance on the principle of difference.

The fallacy of doing so has been demonstrated by Norton.

Miracles in an infinite multiverse

According to Clarke’s law, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Dawkins believes there are probably creatures out there who are so superior to us that we could only regard them as gods if they were to visit us. But he insists that they would have been created through evolutionary processes and would not be supernatural beings.

But this means that in order for him to dismiss out of hand the testimonies of witnesses of paranormal events and miracles, he would have to either show that they violate the laws of physics or give us plausible reasons as to why such creatures would not visit us.

He also faces another problem stemming from his belief in an infinite number of parallel universes.

In an infinite space, any event which is physically possible is bound to happen somewhere.

This has led physicists to consider the possibility of so-called Boltzmann’s brains which would pop into existence because of random fluctuations.

Bolzmann-brain
Bolzmann’s brain

While physicists disagree about the frequency of their appearances in a vast multiverse, they all think they will at least exist somewhere.

Actually, to the best of my knowledge, nobody has been able to convincingly demonstrate they would be very rare.

Anti-theists like to mock Christians by comparing their belief in God to the belief in a flying spaghetti monster. flying-spaghetti-monster

But if we truly live in an infinite multiverse, flying spaghetti monsters too will necessarily exist somewhere.

What is more, physically very improbable events (such as the resurrection of a man from the dead) are also going to happen somewhere through random processes.

 

As a consequence, the atheist can no longer say “your belief in the miracles of the New Testament is silly because they violate the law of physics”.

The best he could say would be: “While such events really occur somewhere, their relative frequency is so low that it is unreasonable for you to believe they really took place.”

This is no doubt a weaker position which has its own problems.

 

The simulation argument

Actually, Dawkins discussed the so-called simulation argument elsewhere.

According to it, it is more likely we live in the simulation of a universe than in a real one.

Far from “debunking” this possibility, Dawkins recognises he cannot show it to be very unlikely in the same way he thinks he can reject the existence of God.

I think another interesting thesis can be formulated.

Consider the following proposition:

“We live in a simulation run by unknown beings who created everything five minutes ago and gave us false memories of the past.”

Brain in the vat: "I'm walking outside in the sun!"
Brain in a vat. My thought experiment here is far broader than that and includes the possibility of being part of a simulation of beings radically different from everything we can conceive of. Or being fooled by a deceitful demon about whose abilities and psychology we know almost nothing.

I don’t doubt that this idea sounds emotionally absurd to most of us.

But can you show it is very unlikely to be true WITHOUT smuggling in assumptions about the real world?

I have searched the philosophical literature but could not find any demonstration which does not beg the question.

I think that you can only reject it pragmatically through a leap of faith that does not rely on reason and evidence.

Consequently, I also think it is impossible to justify all our beliefs through evidence and logics.

We all walk by faith.

 

The atheist in front of God’s throne

Finally, I want to go into how Dawkins considers the possibility of being judged by a God he didn’t believe in.

Dawkins says he would react like the late British philosopher Bertrand Russel:

“Confronted with the Almighty, [Russell] would ask, ‘Sir, why did you not give me better evidence?’

This assumes that God would be mostly offended by Dawkins’ and Russel’s unbelief.

I have argued elsewhere against the notion (held by fundamentalist Christians) that atheism is immoral and that people dying as atheists will be punished because of their unbelief.

I think it is incompatible with the existence of a supreme being which would necessarily be more loving, just and gracious than any human.

But what if the dialogue between God and Dawkins went like that:

Dawkins: So, you really exist after all! I did not believe in you because I couldn’t see enough evidence.

God: Fair enough. The universe I created is ambiguous and it leaves people the choice to  develop a solid moral character or not. I won’t condemn you because you did not believe in me. Yet, we do have a score to settle.

Dawkins: What do you mean then?

God:I gave you a conscience and the knowledge of good and evil. You knew in your heart that you ought to treat your neighbour as you would like to be treated. But you often disregarded this principle. You and your followers have frequently bullied, mocked and ridiculed respectful opponents. You even loudly proclaimed this was the right thing to do.

Of course, this conversation is completely fictional. I don’t know the content of Dawkins’ heart and cannot rule out the possibility he will be in heaven.

Conclusion

I find that this video of Dawkins is really intellectually stimulating.

I did not feel challenged in my faith/hope there is a supreme being.

On the contrary, this strengthened my belief that atheists cannot confidently assert that “there are probably no gods and miracles.”

Of course, I must recognise there are many atheistic philosophers who are far more sophisticated than Dawkins out there.

But it is worth noting that Dawkins’ books (especially the God delusion) caused many people to lose their faith.

I think that their conversions to atheism are due to his rhetorical skills and not to the strength of his arguments.

 

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Hopeless prayer?

An Gott zu glauben in einer Welt voller Absurditäten

Believing in God in a world teeming with absurdities

Das alte Testament war nicht nur voller Texte, die Gottes Grösse, Güte und Wohlwollen priesen.

The Old Testaments wasn’t only full of texts praising God’s greatness, bounty and benevolence.

Nein, es enthielt auch tiefe Klagelieder und sogar Anschuldigungen gegen den Allmächtigen, der so grauenvolle Übel in der Welt und in ihrem persönlichen Leben zuliess.

No, it also contained deep lamentations and even accusations against the Almighty who allowed such atrocious evils in the world and in their personal life.

Seltsamerweise genug haben fast ALLE moderne christliche Gesänge einen siegreichen Ton und erlauben es zerbrochenen Seelen nicht, die Verzweiflung auszudrücken, die sie ehrlich fühlen.

Strangely enough, almost ALL modern Christian songs have a victorious tone and don’t allow broken souls to express the despair they’re sincerely feeling.

Deswegen war ich entzückt, als ich eine junge deutsche Rapperin entdeckte, die sich über Gott beklagt hat.

Therefore I was delighted as a I found a young German female rapper complaining about God.

Ich bin mir nicht sicher, dass sie eine Christin ist, aber ich fand was sie sang profund und einsichtsvoll.

I’m not quite sure if she’s a Christian but I found what she sang profound and insightful.

Von daher verlinkte ich ihren Gesang und habe es auch auf Englisch ĂĽbersetzt.

So I linked the song and translated it in English.

Wie viel Tränen braucht es noch um den Moment zu ertränken /

How many tears does one need for drowning the moment
wie viele Szenen muss man spielen, um das Schiff zu versenken /

How many scenes must one enact for sinking the ship
wir stehen im reiĂźenden Fluss, ohne das Schicksal zu lenken /

We’re standing in a tearing flow, without being capable of steering fate
den Anker am Fuß mit dem Strick in den Händen /

The anchor is at our feet with the rope in our hands
ich geb’ vielen zu denken, was hast denn du gedacht /

I’m providing food for thought for many, what did you think?
wĂĽnsch’ mir erst ne gute Nacht, wenn das Gute mich bewacht /

First I long for a good night, when the Good is watching over me

du hast uns nicht zu dem gemacht, was wir heute sind /

You did not make us those who we are today
doch deine Schöpfung hat bewiesen, dass die Substanz nicht stimmt /

but your Creation has proved that the substance isn’t right
verlang von deinem Kind, was du gegeben hast /

Request from your child what you’ve given
ein Leben, das, regiert von Hass, nicht in Dein Streben passt /

A life that is ruled by hatred doesn’t fit your striving
nenn’ mir den Grund fĂĽr die Idee, den Menschen zu kreier’n /

Give me the reason for the idea of creating man
denn keines deiner Wesen hat gelernt, zu existier’n /

For there isn’t any being which has learned how to exist
man lebt um zu verlieren, verliert um draus zu lernen /

One lives for losing and loses for learning out of it
lernt mit Verlust zu leben, bis man das Leben verliert /

one learns to live with loss until one loses life
die Suche nach dem Sinn soll meine Aufgabe sein? /

Seeking for meaning should be my task?
aus Angst ihn nicht zu finden, schlieĂź ich die Augen und schlaf ein.

Out of fear of not finding it, I close my eyes and fall asleep
Ich glaub an dich, glaube fest daran, dass es dich gibt /

I believe in you, I firmly believe that you’re out there
doch glaube nicht, dass dir gefällt was du hier siehst /

yet I don’t believe that you’re pleased with what you see
unsere Welt vergießt Tränen im ewigen Krieg /

Our world is shedding tears in this everlasting war
wir brauchen bald ein Wunder, damit sich die Wunde schlieĂźt /

We soon need a wonder in order to close the wound
doch der Glaube liegt tief unter dem Hass und der Wut /

But faith lies deep underneath hate and anger
ĂĽber Bomben, Politik und das vergossene Blut /

about bombs, politics and the shed blood
du wartest, tust nichts bis zum jĂĽngsten Gericht /

You’re waiting and not doing anything till the judgment day
doch sie fürchten sich nicht, denn sie kämpfen für dich.

But they don’t fear each other for they’re fighting for your sake.

Menschen tun alles fĂĽr Geld, alles fĂĽr Macht, alles fĂĽr Ansehen, Ruhm und Neid hat fast alles geschafft /

People do everything for money, everything for power, everything for prestige, glory and jealousy has almost caused everything

jede Zeit spĂĽrt die Kraft mancher heiligen LĂĽgen / seis bei Hexenverbrennung oder bei KreuzzĂĽgen /

Each time feels the strength of some Holy Lies, be it during witch burning or crusades
Geld sĂĽhnt SĂĽnden und der heilige Papst /

Money atones for sins and the Holy Pope
lebt verschlossen hinter TĂĽren in nem eigenen Staat /

lives behind closed doors in his own State

(Remark: the song was written before Pope Francis)
Palästina verbrannt für das heilige Land hat keiner erkannt /

Palestine burnt down for the Holy Land and nobody recognized this
Intoleranz hält auch ner Mauer nicht stand /

Not even a wall can withstand intolerance
denn nach jedem Kampf und seinem HeerfĂĽhrer /

for after every battle and its warlord
gibt’s gottseidank als Resonanz auch gleich nen Märtyrer /

there is (Thank God) as resonance also a new martyr
sag mir wofĂĽr sind wir da, such den Sinn der Szenerie /

Tell me why we’re here, I’m seeking the meaning of the scenery
im Verstand der USA und den Bomben auf Bali /

in the reasoning of the USA and the bombs on Mali
es geht nicht um dich, die Attentäter suchen sich /

It’s not about you, assassins are seeking themselves
da niemand gut zu ihnen ist, hoffen sie dass du es bist /

since nobody is good towards them, they hope you’ll be The one
und sei es Moslem, Jude, Christ, es sind wir die es betrifft /

We’re all concerned, no matter if we’re Muslims, Jews or Christians
weil durch jeden neuen Anschlag unsre Welt ein StĂĽck zerbricht

because through every new strike, our world is being shattered a bit more
-chorus-

Siehst du die traurigen Kinder mit den traurigen Augen /

Do you see the sad kids with sad eyes?
die leeren Mägen der Kinder derer die an dich glauben /

the empty stomaches of the children of those who believe in you
hier ist alles so planlos, und das von Anfang an /

Here everything is so aimless, and that from the very beginning
wir versinken im Chaos und sind selbst Schuld daran /

We’re sinking into chaos and are ourselves guilty of this
du hast uns Gefühle gegeben, wir können denken und reden /

You’ve given us feelings, we can think and talk
und als dein Sohn zu uns kam, nahmen wir ihm das Leben /

and as your Son came to us, we took him his life
hier predigen Menschen vom Geben als dein Gesandte /

here folks are preaching about giving as your messengers
doch wo waren die Pfarrer als man die Juden verbrannte /

but where were pastors as Jews were being burnt alive
denn Mensch ist Mensch und wird immer Mensch bleiben /

for man is man and will always remain man
wir haben Angst zu verlieren deshalb mĂĽssen wir streiten /

We are anguished about losing therefore we fight
das Nächstenliebe uns im Wesen liege ist fraglich /

it’s questionable that the love for our neighbors lies in our being
ob ich die Bibel lese, frag nicht, ich glaub an Schrift /

If I read the Bible? Don’t ask, I believe in Scripture
nur gibt der Inhalt vieler Psalme vielleicht zu wenig Klarsicht /

Still, the content of many Psalms doesn’t perhaps provide us with much insight
weil so wenig von dem was passierte wirklich klar ist /

because so little of that what happened is really clear
bitte versteh’ mich nicht falsch, ich bin dankbar fĂĽr viel /

Please, don’t misunderstand me, I’m thankful for much
nur versteh’ ich manchmal nicht, was dir am Menschen gefiel’

I just sometimes don’t understand, what pleases you in humans

https://i0.wp.com/www.kraftfeld.ch/bilder/2004/040626_fiva_mc_fotos/fiva.9.jpg

Ich hoffe ganz ehrlich, dass ihr daraus Inspiration schöpfen konntet 🙂

I sincerely hope you could draw inspiration out of it 🙂

 

 

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Did Jesus leave his grave behind? An interview with Mike Licona.

There can be little doubt that the Christian faith stands and falls with the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth who claimed this would be the Way His heavenly father would defeat evil forever.

He is Risen

For many people having grown up in post-Christian Europe, this alleged event is nothing more than one of the numerous legends the ancient world was littered with.

SanktClausIn what follows, I had the immense privilege of interviewing Mike Licona, an amazing Biblical scholar and historian who thinks that an intellectual honest man of the twenty-first century can and even should believe that the Son of Man truly rose from the dead.

mike-licona-for-web

In our conversation we touched upon many topics and also wondered if it’s really the case that materialism (the worldview according to which everything is material) is almost certainly true.

 

 

 

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Did Jesus think he was God?

The outstanding liberal Biblical scholar James McGrath wrote a thought-provoking post on this very topic.

 

BildI mentioned a few posts about Bart Ehrman’s recent book yesterday, and there are already a couple more. Larry Hurtado offered some amendments to his post, in light of feedback from Bart Ehrman himself. And Ken Schenck blogged about chapter 3 and whether Jesus thought he was God. In it he writes:

I think we can safely assume that, in his public persona, Jesus did not go around telling everyone he was the Messiah, let alone God.

But one must then ask whether these is a good reason to regard the process that follows, in which Jesus comes to be viewed as the second person of the Trinity, is a legitimate or necessary one.

Schenck also criticizes Ehrman for giving voice to older formulations of scholarly views, as though things had not moved on.

The only people who think that Jesus was viewed as a divine figure from the beginning are some very conservative Christians on the one hand , and mythicists on the other. That in itself is telling.

I’d be very interested to see further exploration of the idea that, in talking about the “son of man,” Jesus was alluding to a future figure other than himself, and that it was only his followers who merged the two, coming up with the notion of a “return” of Jesus. It is a viewpoint that was proposed and then set aside decades ago, and I don’t personally feel like either case has been explored to the fullest extent possible. Scholarship on the Parables of Enoch has shifted since those earlier discussions occurred, and the possibility that that work could have influenced Jesus can no longer be dismissed.

But either way, we are dealing with the expectations of a human being, either regarding his own future exaltation, or the arrival of another figure. We simply do not find in Paul or in our earliest Gospels a depiction of Jesus as one who thought he was God.

Here was my response to that:

Well I’m not really a Conservative Christian (since I reject a fixed Canon and find some forms of pan-en-theism interesting philosophically) but I do believe that Jesus was more than a mere prophet. Along with N.T. Wright I think He viewed Himself as the new temple embodying God’s presence on earth.

I once defended the validity of C.S. Lewis trilemma provided Jesus viewed himself as God.

I’m well aware that Jesus divine sayings in John’s gospel are theological creations .

But here there is something curious going on here.

Many critical scholars think that the historical Jesus falsely predicted the end of the world in the Gospel of Mattew
“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. ” Matthew 24:34

But if one does this, why could we not also accept the following saying

“37”Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38″Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!…” Matthew 23:37

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which is located just several verses before Matthew 24:34. It seems rather arbitrary to accept the latter while rejecting the former.

This verse is intriguing in many respects.

In it, Jesus implies his divinity while not stating it explicitly, and if it was a theological creation such as in John’s Gospel, it seems strange that Matthew did not make this point much more often and clearly at other places, if such was his agenda.

What’s more, the presence of Matthew 24:34 (provided it was a false prophecy) has some interesting consequences about the dating and intention of the author.

1) Let us consider that Matthew made up the whole end of his Gospel out of his theological wishful thinking for proving that Christ is the divine Messiah.

If it is the case, it seems extremely unlikely he would write that one or two generations AFTER Jesus had perished.
This fact strongly militates for dating Matthew’s gospel as a pretty early writing.

2) Let us now suppose that Matthew wrote His Gospel long after Jesus’s generation had passed away.
He would certainly not have invented a saying where his Messiah made a false prediction.
It appears much more natural to assume he reports a historical saying of Jesus as it was because he deeply cared for truth , however embarrassing this might prove to be.

And if that is the case, we have good grounds for thinking he did not make up Matthew 23:37 either.

I’m not saying that what I have presented here is an air-tight case, it just seems the most natural way to go about this.

I think that historical events posses objective probabilities, geekily minded readers might be interested in my own approach.”

 

To which James replied:

“Thanks for making this interesting argument! How would you respond to the suggestion that Jesus there might be speaking as other prophets had, addressing people in the first person as though God were speaking, but without believing his own identity to be that of God’s? I think that might also fit the related saying, “I will destroy this temple, and in three days rebuild it.””

 

Lotharson:

“That’s an interesting reply, James! Of course I cannot rule this out.

Still, in the verses before Jesus uses the third person for talking about God:

“And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.”

and verse 36: ” 36 Truly I tell you , all this will come on this generation.” is a typical saying of Jesus he attributes to himself.

And so it seems to me more natural that Jesus would have said something like:

For Truly God says: ’37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing…”

 

James:

“Well, the same sort of switching back and forth between first person of God and the first person of the prophet is found in other prophetic literature, so I don’t see that as a problem. Of course, it doesn’t demonstrate that that is the best way to account for the phenomenon, but I definitely think it is one interpretative option that needs to be considered.”

I mentioned our conversation because I think it is a nice example of how one can disagree about a topic without being disagreeable towards one another.

Would not the world be in a much better state if everyone began striving for this ideal?

 

 

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

A disheartening state of affairs: homosexual-hating Christians.

My heart is grieving when I’m reading such things about the situation in Uganda and other African countries.

 

Why the surprise at learning how much evangelicals hate gay people?

There’s been a lot of chatter around the Internet lately from Christians who, thanks to the World Vision debacle, have been surprised to learn just how deeply the evangelical right despises gay people.

How can that possibly be a surprise to anyone? Where in “You’re going to hell because God deplores you!” does anyone see even a hint of affection or respect?

The evangelical right’s attitude toward gay people has always been about pure hatred. The Bible’s just an excuse (and a shallow one at that) for that hatred.

The difference between the Westboro Baptist hate-mongers and the Southern Baptist Convention (the largest Protestant body in the United States) has never been a difference of substance; it’s only been a difference in style.

Why does anyone think that so many of us out here have been fighting so hard for so long to bring a new and freaking better Christianity into the world? LGBT people get beaten. They get killed. They get spat upon. They get run over. They get doused with gasoline and lit on fire. They get bullied so ferociously that they kill themselves rather than suffer another moment of it.

Those things don’t happen sometimes. They don’t happen every once in a while. They happen all the time, all over the world. And it’s all perpetrated in the name of Christianity. If you believe that the Bible teaches God condemns to hell all “unrepentant” gay people, then why wouldn’t you pound to death every gay person you saw? Doing so would be doing God’s work, by extending God’s will into the world. That’s what Christians are supposed to do.

We need a new Christianity. And we need it now. (I defined one, by the way. This shit’s not complicated.) And I think one of the first things we also need to do is be very clear about the fact that no one who believes that God finds gay people morally reprehensible is, in fact, a Christian.

They’re just not, okay? Saying “I’m a Christian, and gay people are going to hell” is like saying, “I’m a feminist, and women should remain pregnant and obey their husbands,” or “I’m not a racist, and white people should own black people.” One automatically cancels out the other.

No one gets to declare that they follow the Prince of Peace while at the same time declaring that gay people deserve to be burned alive forever. I don’t care who you are, or how respectable you pretend to be: that pig doesn’t fly. Ignorant bigotry is ignorant bigotry, whether it’s wearing a tie or not. I know it. You know it. And God sure as hell knows it.

To quote Jesus (quoting Isaiah):

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.

To which Jesus then adds his own words:

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.

This is a war, folks. It’s always been a war. It was a war when the evangelicals said the Bible supports slavery. It was a war when they said the Bible supports denying women the vote. And it’s a war when they say the Bible condemns homosexuality.

In a war people choose sides. They have to, because they realize that not doing so will only cause more death and suffering.

If you’re a Christian who is just now realizing that you are part of the problem if you don’t refute the Christian right with anywhere near the vigor with which they so horrendously persecute gay people, then hallelujah for World Vision’s ignorant cowardice.

The middle ground is where people fall and die. Stop standing there. Come to our side. Join us in fighting the good fight. We who know that the Bible does not condemn gay people will win this fight, because God is always on the side of what is right and just.

The sooner you join the winning team, the better for all. And most certainly the better for you, should you have to, say, answer to God tomorrow for why you waited.

And make a NALT video already.

I don’t hate Conservative Evangelicals. I don’t feel (in general) that I am a better person than them. But I am so worn down after seeing what they are doing in Christ’s name.

John Shore is right that if you believe that God is going to eternally torture most homosexuals, why should we not as well tolerate and even support violence against them?
I am disgusted by the Conservative evangelical attitude towards homosexuals and how they fail to consider Jesus priorities.

I want them to repent and sincerely begin to try loving their gay neighbors.

I pray for all Gays, Christians and non-Christians, who are being persecuted for the way they were born. May the Father equip you with courage.

And I pray that God’s love will be poured down into the hearts of their oppressors.

 

God and the cause of the universe

A large and powerful tradition within Christendom has always asserted that faith in God’s existence (and His revelation through Christ) is a rational belief based on evidence, i.e. grounded in the same way our beliefs about the natural world are.

Given that the large majority of Conservative Christians take this approach, it has always dumbstruck me to see the New Atheists always describing faith as “pretending to now what you don’t know” and completely ignoring the fact that very few Christians hold to that view.

R.D. Mika wrote an interesting post about such an attempt to prove God’s existence  by using the fact that our universe began to exist (at the Big Bang).

 

“It is without a doubt true that different people respond to arguments differently. In particular, the wayin which an argument is presented may make the difference in whether a person properly perceives and understands the argument or not. Now the Kalam Cosmological Argument—as formulated by William Lane Craig—is, at present, an incredibly popular argument for theism. Its premises have been attacked and defended multiple times over and from all sorts of different angles. Many people think that the Kalam argument, as it is popularly formulated, is sound, and many people think the opposite.

 
What I wish to offer in this post is one way that the Kalam argument can be reformulated in order to change its presentation and argumentative focus, which might, in turn, make it more appealing and understandable to certain people who might not appreciate it as much when it is presented in its popular formulation. In particular, what I propose is to change the argument structure from a straight deductive argument to a type of “trilemma” argument. Changing the argument in this way will thus force the argument’s opponent to positively select one option of the trilemma, rather than simply allowing him to search for and offer “possible” objections to the traditional premises of the argument. And this, in turn, means that the positive selection that the opponent makes can then be scrutinized and shown to be less reasonable (even irrational) in comparison to the other selections that are on offer. In addition, by forcing the opponent of the argument to actually make a choice as to which option he finds most reasonable, it also prevents the opponent from hiding behind a type intellectual agnosticism or selective skepticism, which he can do to a greater degree when the argument is formulated in the traditional way. Furthermore, by presenting the argument in a trilemma format, where the options are clearly presented and the consequences of accepting those options are absolutely clear as well, the trilemma option can, with absolute clarity, show the enormously steep price that needs to be paid in order to deny the option that supports the Kalam. Also, because it is an argument format that lays all the options out on the table before a person, and because those options can be readily and easily compared, the trilemma format further shows just how absurd it is to choose the options that go against the Kalam argument in comparison to the options that support the argument. Finally, because it shares the many strengths of an “inference to the best explanation” argument format, the trilemma method of presenting the Kalam argument is more natural and easily understandable for the common man. Consider that when a mother finds that the cookie jar on the top shelf of the kitchen has been raided, she will likely reason in the same way that this reformulation of the Kalam will use. She will, for example, consider that the only three individuals that could possibly be responsible for raiding the cookie jar are her three children: Billy, Bob, and Brent. But since Billy was sleeping at the time of the incident and Bob is just a baby and does not know where the cookie jar is (nor could he reach it), then the only candidate left, beyond a reasonable doubt, is Brent. So, the mother reasons, Brent is the only candidate of the three that could have taken the cookies. People often reason in such a manner, and it is simply a more instinctive way of reasoning than deductive reasoning is. Thus, when the Kalam argument is presented in such a manner, it may be more easily understood by the lay-person.

Now, before I offer this Kalam Trilemma Argument, let me do two things. First, I will point out that like the traditional formulation of the Kalam argument, this different formulation assumes the A-Theory of time. Second, let me just refresh your memory as to how the Kalam argument is traditionally formulated (from the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology):

 
Premise 1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

 

Premise 2: The universe began to exist.

 

Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause.

 

Conceptual Analysis of the Cause of the Universe: An uncaused, personal, Creator of the universe exists, who without the universe is beginingless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful.
So, with those two points stated, let us reformulate the Kalam argument in a trilemma-type format.
Fact: The universe (meaning all of space, matter, energy, and time itself) began to exist; in essence, at one point, there was no universe and then there was a universe. (We will, both for the sake of argument and because my goal is not to defend this particular premise in this blog post, just assume that it is the case that the universe began to exist.)
Now, given that the universe began to exist, then there are only three options that can account for its beginning to exist.
Option 1: The universe is uncaused and came out of absolute nothingness. In essence, something which began to exist—the universe—has no cause and came out of an absolute nothingness which has no potentials, no knowledge, no creative ability, no powers, no laws, no force, no nothing! Thus, even though “out of nothing, nothing comes” is a fact more certain than the fact that matter exists, to choose this option you would indeed need to believe that, actually, something can come from absolute nothingness. You would need to believe that out of absolutely nothingness, something does come.

 

 

 

Option 2: The universe was self-caused. In essence, the universe, which did not exist, somehow nevertheless caused itself to exist. A non-existent thing caused itself to exist. To believe this, you would need to believe something that was literally impossible: that a non-existent thing, which thus had no powers, no potential, no creative ability, no knowledge, no force, nothing at all because it did not exist, nevertheless had the power and ability to somehow cause itself to exist.
Option 3: The universe was caused by something which itself is not the universe or any part of the universe, and which is—given that the universe includes all matter—necessarily non-material. In essence, the universe has a cause that is distinct from itself. And to choose this option, all you would have to believe is precisely that: that the universe has a cause which is separate and distinct from the universe itself.
Now, when these three options are compared—and ultimately, as stated, they are indeed the only three options available—I contend that it is manifestly obvious that the third option is the more reasonable one to hold (and once that option is selected, then the Conceptual Analysis can be done). And note that it would be disingenuous for the opponent of the argument to avoid selecting this third option simply because he knows where the argument is leading. Rather, if he is genuinely seeking the truth (or seeking the most rational position to hold), then he must make his selection in this trilemma based on the three options before him as they stand, not on the basis of what they might lead to. Also note that if the opponent of the Kalam argument does select an option other than Option 3, then his choice can be mercilessly attacked and the absurdity of his selection can be readily exposed. Finally, in my view, it should be clear that the opponent of the argument cannot hide behind agnosticism, because when presented with these three options, I contend that all people will see one option as at least more likely than another, thus moving that person away from straight agnosticism and towards one of the three options available.

 

So presenting the Kalam argument in this manner has certain advantages that the traditional formulation does not have, and thus you may wish to consider this approach in the future when employing the Kalam argument.”

 

A large and powerful tradition within Christendom has always asserted that faith in God’s existence (and His revelation through Christ) is a rational belief based on evidence, i.e. grounded in the same way our beliefs about the natural world are.

Given the fact that the large majority of Conservative Christians take this approach, it has always dumbstruck me to see the New Atheists always describing faith as “pretending to now what you don’t know” and completely ignore the fact that very few Christians hold to that view.

 

R.D. Mika wrote an interesting post about such an attempt to prove God’s existence  by using the fact that our universe began to exist.

 

It is without a doubt true that different people respond to arguments differently. In particular, the wayin which an argument is presented may make the difference in whether a person properly perceives and understands the argument or not. Now the Kalam Cosmological Argument—as formulated by William Lane Craig—is, at present, an incredibly popular argument for theism. Its premises have been attacked and defended multiple times over and from all sorts of different angles. Many people think that the Kalam argument, as it is popularly formulated, is sound, and many people think the opposite.

 
What I wish to offer in this post is one way that the Kalam argument can be reformulated in order to change its presentation and argumentative focus, which might, in turn, make it more appealing and understandable to certain people who might not appreciate it as much when it is presented in its popular formulation. In particular, what I propose is to change the argument structure from a straight deductive argument to a type of “trilemma” argument. Changing the argument in this way will thus force the argument’s opponent to positively select one option of the trilemma, rather than simply allowing him to search for and offer “possible” objections to the traditional premises of the argument. And this, in turn, means that the positive selection that the opponent makes can then be scrutinized and shown to be less reasonable (even irrational) in comparison to the other selections that are on offer. In addition, by forcing the opponent of the argument to actually make a choice as to which option he finds most reasonable, it also prevents the opponent from hiding behind a type intellectual agnosticism or selective skepticism, which he can do to a greater degree when the argument is formulated in the traditional way. Furthermore, by presenting the argument in a trilemma format, where the options are clearly presented and the consequences of accepting those options are absolutely clear as well, the trilemma option can, with absolute clarity, show the enormously steep price that needs to be paid in order to deny the option that supports the Kalam. Also, because it is an argument format that lays all the options out on the table before a person, and because those options can be readily and easily compared, the trilemma format further shows just how absurd it is to choose the options that go against the Kalam argument in comparison to the options that support the argument. Finally, because it shares the many strengths of an “inference to the best explanation” argument format, the trilemma method of presenting the Kalam argument is more natural and easily understandable for the common man. Consider that when a mother finds that the cookie jar on the top shelf of the kitchen has been raided, she will likely reason in the same way that this reformulation of the Kalam will use. She will, for example, consider that the only three individuals that could possibly be responsible for raiding the cookie jar are her three children: Billy, Bob, and Brent. But since Billy was sleeping at the time of the incident and Bob is just a baby and does not know where the cookie jar is (nor could he reach it), then the only candidate left, beyond a reasonable doubt, is Brent. So, the mother reasons, Brent is the only candidate of the three that could have taken the cookies. People often reason in such a manner, and it is simply a more instinctive way of reasoning than deductive reasoning is. Thus, when the Kalam argument is presented in such a manner, it may be more easily understood by the lay-person.
Now, before I offer this Kalam Trilemma Argument, let me do two things. First, I will point out that like the traditional formulation of the Kalam argument, this different formulation assumes the A-Theory of time. Second, let me just refresh your memory as to how the Kalam argument is traditionally formulated (from the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology):

 
Premise 1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

 

Premise 2: The universe began to exist.

 

Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause.

 

Conceptual Analysis of the Cause of the Universe: An uncaused, personal, Creator of the universe exists, who without the universe is beginingless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful.
So, with those two points stated, let us reformulate the Kalam argument in a trilemma-type format.
Fact: The universe (meaning all of space, matter, energy, and time itself) began to exist; in essence, at one point, there was no universe and then there was a universe. (We will, both for the sake of argument and because my goal is not to defend this particular premise in this blog post, just assume that it is the case that the universe began to exist.)
Now, given that the universe began to exist, then there are only three options that can account for its beginning to exist.
Option 1: The universe is uncaused and came out of absolute nothingness. In essence, something which began to exist—the universe—has no cause and came out of an absolute nothingness which has no potentials, no knowledge, no creative ability, no powers, no laws, no force, no nothing! Thus, even though “out of nothing, nothing comes” is a fact more certain than the fact that matter exists, to choose this option you would indeed need to believe that, actually, something can come from absolute nothingness. You would need to believe that out of absolutely nothingness, something does come.

 

 

Option 2: The universe was self-caused. In essence, the universe, which did not exist, somehow nevertheless caused itself to exist. A non-existent thing caused itself to exist. To believe this, you would need to believe something that was literally impossible: that a non-existent thing, which thus had no powers, no potential, no creative ability, no knowledge, no force, nothing at all because it did not exist, nevertheless had the power and ability to somehow cause itself to exist.
Option 3: The universe was caused by something which itself is not the universe or any part of the universe, and which is—given that the universe includes all matter—necessarily non-material. In essence, the universe has a cause that is distinct from itself. And to choose this option, all you would have to believe is precisely that: that the universe has a cause which is separate and distinct from the universe itself.
Now, when these three options are compared—and ultimately, as stated, they are indeed the only three options available—I contend that it is manifestly obvious that the third option is the more reasonable one to hold (and once that option is selected, then the Conceptual Analysis can be done). And note that it would be disingenuous for the opponent of the argument to avoid selecting this third option simply because he knows where the argument is leading. Rather, if he is genuinely seeking the truth (or seeking the most rational position to hold), then he must make his selection in this trilemma based on the three options before him as they stand, not on the basis of what they might lead to. Also note that if the opponent of the Kalam argument does select an option other than Option 3, then his choice can be mercilessly attacked and the absurdity of his selection can be readily exposed. Finally, in my view, it should be clear that the opponent of the argument cannot hide behind agnosticism, because when presented with these three options, I contend that all people will see one option as at least more likely than another, thus moving that person away from straight agnosticism and towards one of the three options available.
So presenting the Kalam argument in this manner has certain advantages that the traditional formulation does not have, and thus you may wish to consider this approach in the future when employing the Kalam argument.”

 

First of all I appreciate the rather humble tone he employed here.

The main problem I see here is that he forgot another vital option:

“Our universe began to exist and it is one member in an infinite chain of parallel universes giving birth to each others.”, as many cosmologists such as Lee Smolin see it.

The cosmological argument can only be valid if this possibility can be discarded. But I don’t see how this could be done.

To my mind, neither this scenario nor the creation from scratch through God’s spirit can be shown to be the most likely explanation to the satisfaction of those not already committed to the hypothesis.